June 26, 2017

Lyme-Old Lyme Graduates Told, “Go Off … Save the World,’ But Know, ‘Old Lyme Will Forever Welcome You Home’

The traditional cap toss rounded off a special evening celebrating the Class of 2017.

It was a truly beautiful June evening last Thursday as 118 students received their high school diplomas along with the privilege of calling themselves alumni of Lyme-Old Lyme High School (LOLHS.) Principal James Wygonik, class advisor Brett Eckhart, and four empowering students reflected in different ways on the class’s past four years at LOLHS.

Lyme-Old Lyme High School Principle Jim Wygonik told the Class of 2017 they had made the school “An even better place.”

Wygonik recalled the Class of 2017 as one never to be put down nor to sidestep a challenge. He described how, when told that public prom proposals would no longer be permitted this year as in some cases they could be upsetting, the class dutifully complied on the personal level, but, on the group level, took matters into their own hands. In a very public event, a large group of class members proceeded to invite him to the prom!  Wygonik said that inspired response demonstrated, “The culture you have fostered,” and as a result, that day, “Our school became an even better place.”

Class of 2017 Adviser Brett Eckart proudly wears the Class of 2017 pin with which he displaced the one for the Class of 2005.

Brett Eckart, who served as Class of 2017 Adviser and is a social studies teacher at the high school, used a multiplicity of props to enhance his speech to the class.  He confessed that he knew this class was tired of hearing about the “Great Class of 2005,” which he had always regarded as the ultimate class in terms of their character and achievements.  He duly placed a large 2005 pin on his gown to remind them of that fact one last time.

Lauren Quaratella stands with a fellow graduate, whom she first met at Lad & Lassie Pre-School.

But by the end of his speech, after describing some of the many memorable times he had shared with the Class of 2017, he reached down into the podium, pulled out something and then proceeded to stick an even larger 2017 pin over the 2005 one to indicate how this class has now risen to prominence in his mind over that of 2005.  Eckart also reminded the class not always to focus on their destination but to savor the journey along the route.

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent ian Neviaser, Board of Education Chairman Mimi Roche and Board of Education member Nancy Edson share a smile after the ceremony.

Class President Callie Kotzan opened the ceremony by saying goodbye to all things about high school that will be missed, both important and unimportant. She formally gave her last goodbye to the Class of 2017 and encouraged her classmates to hold on to that inner child, despite all of the changing that comes with growing up, saying, “As we go off into the rest of our lives I encourage you to find the beauty, and although we are growing up it does not mean we must lose our passion and excitement for life.”

Twins Maggie and Abbie Berger celebrate their graduation.

Honor Essayist Rachel Hayward used the children’s book, Oh the Places You’ll Go, by Doctor Seuss to highlight the accomplishments she and her classmates have made, and the endless opportunity that awaits the class in the future. Quoting Seuss’s famous words, she told her classmates, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose,”  …  and the direction Hayward has chosen for herself in the autumn is Lafayette College, Pa.

Salutatorian Laura Wayland steps down from the podium after giving her speech.

Salutatorian Laura Wayland, who is headed to Yale University in the fall, compared the hard work, pain and accomplishments she had experienced as a dancer, to those she had endured and achieved as a student. She encouraged her fellow classmates never to forget the hard work needed to find blissful happiness in life, advising them to, “Let those passions guide you, and ground you, in the complex dance that is life, and then noting optimistically, “As long as you continue to follow your passions, and follow your dreams, you will be able to accomplish anything.”

Valedictorian Natalie Rugg smiles after giving an emotional, stirring speech.

Valedictorian Natalie Rugg opened her speech by thanking her family, friends and teachers, “who have supported and inspired me through the past 18 years,” saying, “I would not be the person I am today without you all.” Then she addressed her classmates, declaring, “We all have bright futures ahead of us. With the unmatched education that Region 18 and Lyme-Old Lyme High School have offered us, we have a breadth of tools at our disposal.”

Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Board of Education members, administrators, faculty and seniors file into the Thursday evening’s graduation ceremony led by the Class Marshals.

Rugg continued by recognizing the beauty and intimacy of the town of Old Lyme and encouraged her peers never to forget the town from which they came.  As the daughter of a career submariner, Rugg commented, “My hometown could have been anywhere: Guam, Hawaii, California. But I ended up growing up here in Old Lyme.” Noting that, “The beaches may not be as beautiful as those in Guam,” and “the weather isn’t as predictable as California,” she stated proudly, “Out of all the places in the world, I would not have rather grown up anywhere else than in Old Lyme.”

Celebrating a certain graduate with a special sound.

Rugg elaborated noting, “Yes, Old Lyme is small, but it’s also a beautiful, tight-knit community,” adding, “I realized that this place, this is my hometown.” and stating unequivocally, “When I’m in Providence next year {Rugg will be attending Brown University in the fall], I’ll introduce myself as growing up in Old Lyme, and one day I’ll bring my children here and show them around, just as my parents did for me.”

The LOLHS Chorus sang ‘Unwritten’ under the direction of Chorus Director Kristine Pekar.

Looking out over the “sea of seniors,” an emotional Rugg gathered her composure and said firmly, “And, my classmates, this is your hometown, too. Even when we’re taking on the world, we’ll still have Old Lyme to keep us together.” Fighting back tears, Rugg took another long pause and then concluded, “Though we will soon be going off to save the world, remember that Old Lyme will forever welcome you home. Reserve this one day to revel together and embrace the place that has made you the brilliant person you are now.” 

Mildred Sanford Outstanding Educator Award winner Jon Goss chats with a graduate after the ceremony.

Continuing a privilege afforded to the senior graduating class, officers of the Class of 2017 then presented the Outstanding Educator Award in memory of Mildred Sanford to the faculty member selected by their class, Technical Education teacher Jonathan Goss.

Jay Wilson conducts the LOLHS band playing Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance.’

After the distribution of diplomas, the newly-pronounced alumni threw their caps high into the air in the traditional, celebratory hat toss, the band struck up the Sine Nomine Ceremonial March in a British Style by Ralph Vaughn-Williams and the graduates marched out into the arms of awaiting friends and family to celebrate their success.  

The LOLHS Chorus led the singing of the school’s Alma Mater.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017!

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